Defying Deaf: Redining a Culture
Written by Sarah   
Saturday, 03 September 2011 01:27

Defying deaf: Redefining a culture


FROM ISSUE # 186 (June 2011) | IN THIS ISSUE

In Dancer in the Dark, the eccentric singer and actress Björk plays the role of a single mother, whose deteriorating aural and visual senses spiral her into a heart-wrenching series of misfortunes. When it comes to the subject of the disabled, the silver screen often portrays a dreary world wrought with tragedy, hopelessness and self-pity.  

But for Sarah Giri, chairperson of Nepali-Indo Deaf Arts Society (NIDACS), the terms 'deaf disability' and 'hearing-impaired' are misnomers, outdated and defunct. 

The patron of Deaf (capital 'D') arts and culture has been working since 2002, spreading awareness about the deaf community not as a handicapped group but as a marginalised people that espouses its own language and customs and tackles distinct struggles and social formations.  

"The deaf have come a long way throughout history," Giri asserts. "Not because of, but in spite of what Helen Keller said, that blindness can separate you from things, but deafness separates you from people."   

I met Giri and two members of her Deaf dance troupe, Jamuna Dahal and Anita Prajapati, at a rehearsal for the debut of Eyes Empowered Part II, a weeklong exhibition of Deaf art at the Summit Hotel.

Instructing the girls in mid-dance, Giri signed as she allowed her fingers to collapse into fists only then to open and freeze in momentary forms. Instantly, the dancers took heed, adjusted their footing and continued to cha-cha across the floor. The two girls performed remarkably in sync despite the absent beats. 

As I gathered from their gestures in between sets, Dahal and Prajapati critiqued their routine. I watched as their hands danced within the quadrangular space above their diaphragms and their faces expressed intelligible emotion. It is not that I had never seen a person sign before. But I had never felt so speechless (in its most literal sense). All my hands could muster were a few broken letters that I had learned in primary school: "I-A-M-M-A-R-C-U-S," and I am illiterate in Deaf.

To accommodate my impediment, they took out their phones, and we began to converse through SMS drafts. Exchanging mobiles, I learned their names and their ages (both 22) and delved into small talk as social etiquette dictates.

Their performance compliments the NIDACS exhibition on Deaf art and culture, with which Giri identifies whole-heartedly. Giri, a hearing person herself, started her Deaf education in 2002 in Bangalore. And ever since, she has become fluent in sign and has facilitated workshops on dance and art for the deaf in South Asia.

"So many of my deaf friends in India are successful professionals as architects, web designers and   accountants. We haven't reached that level in Nepal. But it's important to dream and work and remember, " she says.

Giri's latest project, Eyes Empowered Part II, features paintings by Deaf Nepali and Indian artists, who draw the Deaf perspective in celebration of Deafness and/or in resistance of the predominantly hearing world. The event hopes to illuminate the hearing majority of Nepal to the rich heritage and pastiche of Deaf culture.

In "Also Sun Flowers!" by Deaf artist Rasmi Amatya, eyes superimposed on sunflowers gaze at the life-giving sun, representing the beauty present in the voiceless journeys of both the deaf and the sunflower.

Likewise, Deaf artist Anirban Das Gupta's painting "Eyes Empowered" magnifies the all-seeing eye and conveys the life channel of the deaf. Giri captions piece: "It's an eye that hears, absorbing messages unheard, unsaid."

Eyes Empowered Part II, NIDACS 2nd Annual Exhibition on Deaf Art, Summit Hotel, 3 – 10 June


Deaf Art from France: SURDISME
Written by Sarah   
Friday, 26 August 2011 07:38

The French Connection!

                             Arnaud Balard

                                 Deaf Artist from France

 It is with pride and pleasure we introduce Deaf Artist   Arnaud Balard from France. Arnaud reached out to us through this website and yes, this international Deaf camaraderie is beautiful. Arnaud is an established artist who pioneered a unique/new form of art in Europe. Please read on and be inspired by what Aranaud has to say .....

Announcing Eyes Empowered Part Two
Written by Sarah   
Monday, 30 May 2011 11:54


The Nepali Times

In John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me, the white journalist describes his experience traveling through the segregated American South of the 1960s, disguised as a black man. Griffin intentionally darkened his skin to apassable shade and logged his experiences in a novel that would eventually draw white America's attention to the tribulations faced by marginalised African Americans.

Sarah Giri of the Nepal-Indo Deaf Art and Culture Society (NIDACS), identifies herself as 'culturally Deaf'. For the last nine years, she has worked to bring awareness to the deaf community in South Asia, and NIDACS will run Eyes Empowered Part II, a weeklong exhibition of Deaf Art by Nepali and Indian deaf artists commencing with a soirée prevue on 3 June sponsored by the Summit Hotel.

NIDACS provides a platform for the deaf community, working not as a charity for a disability group but as a repository for a culture complete with its own history, values, and most importantly language.


"Language and literacy are prerequisites of a culture," Giri says as she demonstrates her fluency in sign language. "With deaf language came Deaf (capital 'D') culture and heritage. The hearing word is written on board surfaces, while the deaf write in space. Throughout history groups, whose rights and privileges have been denied, have come together to voice their experiences through art."

Under the genre of 'disenfranchised art,' there are two categories: affirmation art and resistance art. Giri explains, "The first is about validation and celebration where, 'I'm deaf, and so what? This is a wonderful world, and this is our culture.' And the second talks about the oppression and segregation from the dominant hearing culture and its portrayal in their suppression."

Deaf subalternity entails a paradox of isolation and dependency, where for the deaf, even the closest kith and kin are far and estranged. "The Lonely Walk" (right) by Deaf artist Anirban Das Gupta paints a bright picture of a woman walking alone, representing the detachment and poignant optimism of deaf individuals in a predominantly hearing world.

Work opportunity for deaf Nepalis is scarce and limited. Since 1997, Shyam Kakshapati's Bakery Café has employed dozens of deaf people in Kathmandu. But Nepal shouldn't stop there.

"The deaf are succeeding through their studies in high school and college. But the only avenue they see in front of them is a waiter, a data entry person, or as a sign language instructor. So while these opportunities give them the means to eat and pay the bills, it's limited and has become a sort of de-motivation," says Giri.

On top of its art workshops and cultural events, NIDACS challenges corporations to invest in the potential of deaf individuals as web developers and designers, architects, and accountants.

In a second work, Das Gupta portrays the deaf perspective as an invisible minority. Giri captions the piece: "The whole world sleeps in silence, undisturbed. While under a lit corner, a group of deaf is signing. All they need to communicate is a little moonlight."

Eyes Empowered Part II, NIDACS 2nd Annual Deaf Art Exhibition, Summit Hotel, 3 - 10 June


New Milestone for Deaf History in Nepal
Written by Sarah   
Friday, 15 April 2011 15:10


Nepal's 2nd Exhibition of Deaf Art

We are looking forward to Nepal's 2nd Exhibition of Deaf Art scheduled for the week of June 3rd, 2011. Entitled 'Eyes Empowered - Part Two', the exhibition will be hosted by a very special hotel in Kathmandu, the Summit Hotel.

Nepal's First Exhibition of Deaf Art
Written by Sarah   
Thursday, 03 June 2010 06:26


"Eyes Empowered'

Nepal's First Exhibition of Deaf Art

Dates: March 10 -12, 2010

Partners: Nepal-Indo Deaf Art & Culture Society (NIDACS) & Laxmi Bank

 "Eyes Empowered' ....... Nepal's very first exhibition of Deaf Art finally became a reality. The dates were March 10 to 12, 2010. The venue selected was Hotel Himalaya, Kathmandu. Visiting and participating Deaf delegates came from the cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Orissa and Kolkotta in India. In all, 32 of them. Then we had 10 Deaf Guests from the UK. Finally, more than 100 Deaf assembled from Nepal, the host country.

March 6th to 8th, we had the 32 India Deaf delegates arriving at different times in groups. Laxmi Bank, our partner for the event,  put them all up at the exotic resort, The Park Village Hotel. March 8th afternoon: joyful reunion of old Deaf friends, getting to know new ones with lectures and presentations in Sign Language in the Indo-nepal Deaf Art and Culture Society (NIDACS) premise. March 9th, it was time to go to the exhibition premise, Hotel Himalaya and set up the works of art, some 100 of them, mostly oil on canvas plus some digital copies.

Milestone: Nepal-indo Deaf Art & Culture Society
Written by Sarah   
Thursday, 18 February 2010 13:33



Nepal Indo Deaf Art & Culture Society (NIDACS)

A Milestone

Yes, it's been a long, long silence on our part. Did not want to surface without something positive to announce to all of you. So now, is there something to announce? Yes!!! Finally, the Nepal-Indo Deaf Art and Culture Society (NIDACS) has been registered with the Nepal Government as an NGO committed to work for Deaf development in the region. Our registration number: 579. We have Deaf Mithila Pudasaini as Treasurer, Deaf Jeewan Poudel as Secretary and Deaf Bhairab Pudasaini, Deaf Jamuna Dahal and Deaf Anita Prajapati as members. Who is our first sponsor? 

Deaf Contribution in Corporate Employee Development Training
Written by Sarah   
Friday, 17 July 2009 10:14
July, 2009

For my client, the Nepal Pharmaceutical Company, the first of our four annual Professional Development Training workshops for managers and next for medical representatives were due first and second week of this month of July.  What could we do different this time?

Deaf Ballroom Dance Performance for Nepal ABC Television
Written by Sarah   
Friday, 17 July 2009 07:58

  Friday, June 12, 2009 ..... Kathmandu, Nepal

Sometime first week of June, 2009, when out driving between a meeting and counseling, there was a call from home saying the ABC Television team was waiting and with them was my dear Deaf Dancer friend Muna Gurung. After 35 minutes and some rescheduling, I was home. What was it about?

The ABC team was led by Samir Joshi, a program director and one of the programs he’s responsible for is Anautho Parivesh (Strange Encounters). In the usual search for program ideas he had been to the Kathmandu Association for the Deaf (KAD), met Muna Gurung, a performer in my Deaf Dance group and now Muna had them all here, sitting at my patio, sipping lemonade on a summer’s afternoon! 

Deaf Language Experience
Written by Sarah   
Monday, 06 April 2009 09:54

Nepal Adventure Resort: Borderlands
& Deaf Language Experience

About deaf & Deaf
Written by Sarah   
Saturday, 28 February 2009 23:41

I am sorry some of my dear visitors have expressed displeasure at my use of the title Deaf with proper names. Naturally, I owe an explanation and here we go....

 As per my understanding and research, the word ‘deaf’ with a small ‘d’ has been used to denote a lack or absence of ability to hear. I am personally not in favor of this use either and therefore my choice not to have it as a title for any of my dear fellow workers and travelers!

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